Our own Great Escape
Set in the barracks of a P.O.W camp, you and your comrades quickly discover the legend of Bob Hails – the only prisoner to have successfully escaped the camp. And what’s more, he’s left you his journal to help you and your team evade the enemy and make your own great escape. But do you have what it takes to earn your freedom? If you’re unsure which game to play first or are bringing youngsters, we recommend this one.
Admittedly, we’re relatively new to the escape room scene, but The Adventure Begins has been on our radar for quite some time now, particularly after the delight that was The Battle for Britain. I have actively wanted to make it out to Escape Plan’s Shoreditch location for over a year now, but until recent changes to the company’s pricing structure, it was cost-prohibitive for a team of two, which meant trying to schedule something with the extended team – no small feat, as half of the usual team had already played! But, with the introduction of peak, off-peak and now super off-peak pricing, if you’re flexible about when you play, the price per person for a team of two is now in line with, or lower than, that of other games throughout London, and even more reasonable for larger teams on a per person basis.
The Adventure Begins is very conveniently located just a few minutes walk away from Shoreditch High Street Station in the basement of the RichMix Cinema and Arts Centre. We arrived, checked in with the cinema box office to let the team know we were there. A few moments later, the Escape Plan team appeared and following a quick chat with Brendan, the owner of Escape Plan, and an introduction to our GM, Matt, it was time to head downstairs.
In a well-themed briefing area, Matt delivered the usual health and safety spiel with panache, along with some more in-depth coverage of anything specific to this game that we might need to know. Finally, he handed over the all-important journal of Bob Hails before sending us through the door into 1941.
The journal of Bob Hails doesn’t help with every puzzle, but everything in the journal is useful. Teams that dislike the search element of an escape room will be pleased to know that The Adventure Begins has very little involved, with no particularly sneaky hiding places, and most things in plain sight, allowing the game to unfold in a non-linear fashion that is ideal for slightly larger groups. The puzzles themselves fit the theme, and for the most part, were logic-based or observational in nature. While I enjoyed the puzzles, for me one of the highlights were the very cool, handcrafted locking mechanisms that were occasionally used in place of padlocks. One thing did break the unspoken escape room rule of only being used once, but this was clearly explained by Matt prior to entering the room; it was just a matter of figuring out which thing would be used more than once.
Unless this is the first review of mine that you’re reading, you will probably be familiar with my feelings on padlocks and The Adventure Begins has a fair number of them. I know I’m picky, but with the continual advancements in game design, and my personal preference for games that force me to interact with elements around me, rather than solve for a code, I find that unless padlocks are: 1) Fitted only to things that one would normally expect to find a lock on, 2) Backed up by solid, varied puzzles, and 3) Don’t ruin all of a designer’s hard work on making an immersive, beautiful set, then their use irritates me slightly (especially if the lighting is dim). It’s a testament then to the design of the game, the strength of the puzzles, the style of locks chosen, and even the lighting, when I tell you that the padlocks in The Adventure Begins did not irritate me. Gord, on the other hand, loves them and probably wouldn’t even mention it!
While there were a number of padlocks, each lock was clearly marked to let us know which puzzle would produce the code needed, allowing teams to avoid wasting precious time inputting the same four-digit code or word into every padlock they come across. This clear signposting is certainly divisive – some love it, some hate it. I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, I do find this guidance makes me feel slightly less immersed in the game than I might otherwise. On the other hand, knowing exactly which lock will open with the code I have means I don’t find myself getting annoyed by having to try the code in every lock, making the entire experience just that little bit more pleasant and immediately apparent if the code is correct or incorrect. It is also a bonus to me that the locks themselves didn’t stand out as being overly modern, even though they are, and blended in well to the 1940’s setting.
The Adventure Begins has been around in some incarnation for close to half a decade, but you wouldn’t guess that from looking at it. Yes, it was relocated from the venue that now houses The Battle for Britain, but the set, props, locks, and custom mechanisms are all in immaculate condition – a testament perhaps to the quality of the build and the love that has clearly gone, and continues to go, into this game.
As the name might suggest, players truly are taken on an adventure, as you solve puzzles to make your way out of the prison camp. We found ourselves inside a cabin that looked as though it could have been taken straight out of The Great Escape. And while we didn’t have to dig a tunnel out, it’s worth noting that at least one member of your team should be agile enough to crawl. However, once you’re past this point, the game opens up again and is fully accessible (there is also a lift to the basement from RichMix should you require one).
The game benefits from quite a few moments of fun, and a set with distinct and different areas, and the attention to detail in various aspects was impressive as we made our way through, with the atmospheric soundtrack of chatting guards, and planes, bringing the story to life. The game had a wonderful flow, with a climax and a distinct and triumphant ending as we found the key to our final escape.
The puzzles within The Adventure Begins flowed so well to us that Matt didn’t need to offer any assistance, although had we needed it, any help would have been delivered through the speaker system, as he had conveniently gained control of the POW camp’s communication network for the next hour (I do love it when the system by which we receive hints is backed up by the story). Had we needed help, I have no doubt that Matt would have swiftly chimed in to rescue us. He was clearly paying close attention to exactly where we were in the game, as he knew just when to ramp up the adrenaline or momentarily hinder our progress (in a fun way) after Gord bypassed a puzzle.
TL;DR – The Adventure Begins is a fantastic game with clever puzzles, a great set, and some really fun moments. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this room to teams that are trying to find their first escape room or to enthusiasts, particularly those that want to try their hand at their first room as a team of two.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 38:30 with no clues
Address: 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, Shoreditch, London E1 6LA
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for these tickets, but this has not influenced our review*